The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research, now in all-pdf form. Get a subscription now for only $25 a year!
(Image credit: Wellcome Library no. 11847i, Photo number: V0011119)
A fond look back at some celebrated phrenological images
by Stephen Drew, Improbable Research staff
Here are some images from the heyday of phrenology. Most of them come from the book The Illustrated Self-instructor in Phrenology and Physiology: With One Hundred Engravings, and a Chart of the Character, written by Orson Squire Fowler and Lorenzo Niles Fowler, published in 1857. Like bumps on a head, these images almost speak for themselves.
This particular Fowler’s “symbolic head” chart has become an enduring and sometimes beloved symbol of the golden age of phrenology.
The principles of phrenology were applied to many animals, with results generally as insightful and useful as when applied to human beings. (This is a reproduction of page 62 of the book.)
The title page of Fowler and Fowler’s popular book.
A drawing of Emerson, an idiot.
A drawing of the head of a conceited simpleton.
Bonus: the comparison of the Good Mother and the Unmotherly.
The shapely head of Franz Joseph Gall, the father of phrenology. This image does not appear in Fowler and Fowler’s book, but its spirit does.
Another Bonus: From the back cover of the Annals of Improbable Research, three phrenological drawings from the book Cours de Phrenology, written by F.J.V. Broussais, published in Paris in 1836.
This article is republished with permission from the July-August 2007 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!
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